Stormy Sundays

See Shakespeare's The Tempest from all angles at the Saint Louis Art Museum

The "Stormy Weather...Tempest Tales" film series

Saint Louis Art Museum in Forest Park

5 p.m. on Sunday (May 1 through May 22) at the (314-721-0072; see for a full schedule). Admission is $3 to $5, and each film is followed by a discussion with representatives of the Shakespeare Festival.

No one who has read William Shakespeare's written work, by turns earthy and divine, can argue his lasting impact on modern storytelling. Shakespeare's great strength, his understanding of the human psyche and heart, allows his work to be recast again and again, and so Billy's insightful characterizations and well-honed wordplay have been borrowed and built upon by later writers for 400 years.

The range of Shakespeare's influence is explored in the "Stormy Weather...Tempest Tales" film series. Four vastly different takes on The Tempest, Shakespeare's final romantic comedy, demonstrate the mutability of his work. Shakespeare's original play took place on a tropical island controlled by the magician Prospero and his servants (the sprite, Ariel, and the beastlike Caliban); Prospero magically shipwrecks a European crew, only to see his beautiful daughter, Miranda, fall in love with one of the men, Ferdinand.

Simple, no? What is there to work with? Peter Greenaway reimagines the story from Prospero's point of view in Prospero's Books. The film is a riot of color and words, as calligraphy and illustrations cascade across the screen in multiple layers. Derek Jarman jettisons the island for the stark English countryside in his The Tempest, emphasizing the strained master-and-servant relationship of Prospero and Caliban over all others (Jarman also throws in a musical number for good measure). Perhaps the strangest reworking is Fred M. Wilcox's B-grade sci-fi adaptation Forbidden Planet. Leslie Nielsen (!) leads his intrepid crew to the planet Altair-4 and discovers the technologically superior Dr. Morbius and his daughter, Altaira, as well as the famous Robby the Robot. Forbidden Planet had a great influence on Gene Roddenberry, creator of Star Trek, so it's not too great a leap to claim that with no Shakespeare, the world would never have had a James T. Kirk. Terrifying to consider...but true.

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